The Tiny Yet Mighty C. elegans

By Anod Saba, Summer Research Intern in Dr. Joel Meyer’s Lab

This summer, I had the privilege to be a part of the dynamic and accepting team at the Duke University Superfund Research Center. One of my primary responsibilities was to work with Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a free-living, transparent nematode, or roundworm, commonly used in biology and toxicology research due to its relatively simple genetic structure and ease of handling.

From the moment I stepped into the lab, I was welcomed by an atmosphere filled with laughter, friendly banter, and a shared curiosity for the wonders of science. The Duke Superfund team is not only a group of brilliant scientists but also wonderfully kind and funny individuals who made my experience enjoyable and fulfilling.

My daily activities revolved around the care and study of C. elegans. I learned how to culture and maintain C. elegans populations, a procedure that includes feeding them with a diet of E. coli bacteria, which we cultured in the lab. It’s amazing how such small creatures could teach us so much!

One of the techniques I mastered during my internship was fluorescence microscopy, a method used to image the worms, enabling us to observe and document their behaviors and responses to various stimuli. The whole process felt like I was peering into an entirely different world, watching these tiny organisms go about their lives.

In addition to worm maintenance and imaging, I learned how to bleach C. elegans to harvest their eggs, a key method for ensuring that we have a consistent population for our studies. I also mastered the skill of worm transfer, which may seem simple, but requires precision and care, ensuring the survival and health of these microscopic creatures.

Looking back, I realize that my summer with Duke Superfund was not just about learning new techniques or gaining laboratory skills. It was about immersing myself in an environment that values learning, collaboration, and the pursuit of knowledge. It was about understanding the intricate dance of science – where patience, precision, and creativity come together to generate insights that could one day change the world.

With a heart filled with gratitude, I hope to carry forward these learnings and experiences as I continue my journey in the scientific realm, forever inspired by the tiny yet mighty C. elegans.